Palestine: Transfer Anxiety and the Anxiety of Alternatives
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 15 Oct 2018
7 Oct 2018 – A state of anxiety prevails among the Palestinians, a situation that stems from two sources: the first: the escalation and acceleration of the annexation and its procedures, the growing fear of official annexation to Israel and expulsion to abroad; and the second: concern over the vague Palestinian responses to what is happening. The follow-up of the articles of Hani al-Masri, Rami Mahdawi, Khalil al-Asali and other journalists are just expressions of this concern.
Yet, there are other concern expressed by Benjamin Netanyahu during a dinner at an annual religious ceremony held at his home in October 2017 that he fears Israel’s fate will be the same as the fate of the 77-year-old Hasmonean kingdom before it was removed by the Romans.
What is common between these two concerns? Where do they differ?
The anxiety of Netanyahu is external, and it is related today to the threats coming from Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. The West Bank and Jerusalem are no longer ( he thought) to pose any threat to him and his state. As the Hasmonean kingdom ended at the hands of the Roman Empire, Netanyahu is afraid that Israel will end up at the hands of an external power.
The Palestinian concern is not only annexation and expansion of settlements, but also a concern for the population growth rate of the settlements, which reached 3.9%, followed by Palestinian population growth of 2.5%, and where the majority of the settlement population was achieved in both Jerusalem and Area C that represents two-thirds of the Palestinian territories.
The increase in the population of the settlements comes from natural growth, in addition to the newcomers, but the new thing is that this increase is coming as Israeli studies themselves indicate more from the natural growth than the arrival of new immigrants, especially in light of the absence of the massive immigration to Israel, like the large wave of immigration from Russia and the former Soviet republics of the 1990s.
In this context we can understand two new strategies on colonial settlement in the West Bank and Jerusalem, one betting that natural growth in the colonies plus a few new colonists from abroad will be able to bring the number of colonists to one million in less than 20 years from now. The number of colonists currently stands at 614,500, according to the lowest estimates submitted by Peace Now. These increase naturally by 17,500 annually, ie 175 thousand annually and 350 thousand in 20 years. This will bring the number of colonists to one million, assuming that the annual growth of population will continue to be the same in the coming years, and assuming as well that there will be no arrival of new settlers from abroad.
The second strategy is no less serious. It is the plan of the Israeli Minister of Housing, Yoav Galant, to bring about a qualitative change in the standard of living in the settlements, to make it parallel to the level in central Israel, to develop attractive tourism projects, in addition to other industrial and agricultural areas capable of creating an internal migration situation In which Galant proposed a project to transfer 340,000 Jews from the Gush Dan area to the West Bank settlements, even as their second residence, thereby achieving the unity of “the Land of Israel” in accordance with the concept of the current Israeli government.
Therefore, today we face a new reality in which the population increase in the settlements depends on the factors of natural growth, and the internal migration of Jews within the framework of the so-called Greater Israel, is greater than that dependent on emigration from abroad. Despite the demographic predictions that the number of Palestinians is equal to the number of Jews today, even without the return of any Palestinian refugees from abroad, it is necessary to warn against dependence on the demographic factor alone as an entry point for change, especially since the ratio of new births among Orthodox Jews became bigger than the ratio of new births among the Palestinians inside Israel. This will give Israel an opportunity to return to the status of demographic superiority if the percentage of Haredim continues to rise as it is today.
This will make the possibility of returning from annexing the “territories” to Israel difficult, creating new internal displacement situations, and the situation of Al Khan Al Ahmar is only a small example. There may also be an official tendency to deport the Palestinians abroad. Exploiting the circumstances of any future war that may erupt. In this situation, Gaza alone remains an Israeli-Palestinian state.
What needs to be explained is also the Palestinian reaction, which is officially and publicly limited. On the official level, the strategy of internationalization has been presented politically and legally as the main response to Israel’s de facto policies on the ground, the Government plan of 2017- 2022 is one of the last examples that presented such a strategy presented without being accompanied by another strategy to create internationalization “from the bottom” by bringing the international community to work with us on the struggle in the ground , and economically and developmentally for building in Jerusalem and Area C, creating new facts on the ground in them and working together to raise the issue of Palestinian refugees again.
If the bell hangs on this direction on the ground, there will be no scarcity of programs to work, as they exist and are abundant and we only have to initiate. What awaits the vanguard?
Dr. Walid Salem is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He was born in East Jerusalem in 1957 and teaches democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem. He is also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for several public and private bodies. Salem trained more than thirty thousand Palestinians on these issues since 1990. From 1993, he has been the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He is the Coordinator of Middle East Citizen Assembly as regional network of experts and activists on citizenship issues that include participants from 19 countries from the region since 2004. He has lectured at several international conferences and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Oct 2018.
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